Middle class to pay for Sure Start services
Sure Start children's centres will focus their services on the most disadvantaged families with middle class parents being asked to contribute to the cost of services, the Children's Minister Sarah Teather announced today.
She said: "Early Years support for all families is important but our reform must benefit the most disadvantaged families first and foremost. We need to end cycles of deprivation by reaching children from as young as two, therefore giving them the best chance to learn and develop. These reforms are vital because we know that high-quality early education can have a dramatic impact on a child’s life chances in the longer term."
She added that a more flexible approach would be taken to Early Years with every setting being able to adapt what they offer to local needs and Government being "much less prescriptive about the services children’s centres must provide in return for a commitment from providers to improve the quality of outcomes for the most disadvantaged children".
The reforms announced include: - intending to legislate so that disadvantaged two-year-olds receive 15 hours of free early education a week starting from 2013
- removing the requirement to offer full day care for Sure Start children’s Centres in the most deprived areas, which is largely unused and taking resources away from frontline areas such as family support
- reducing bureaucracy for professionals in Sure Start children’s Centres in the most deprived areas by removing the requirement to hire someone with both Qualified Teacher and Early Years Professional status.
By 2013, ministers plan to put into legislation the commitment for the most disadvantaged two-year-olds to receive 15 hours of free early education per week. Ministers are to seek the views of the Early Years sector and voluntary groups, to define disadvantage to ensure the funding is targeted on those children who would benefit the most.
Anne Longfield, Chief Executive of the 4Children charity, said: “We warmly welcome free childcare for deprived 2 year olds being placed on a statutory footing. All the evidence shows that getting children off to a good start in life has the biggest impact on their life chances.
“However, we have serious concerns about how parents will access this free childcare if Children’s Centres are no longer expected to provide nurseries. In many deprived areas Children’s Centres provide some of the only high quality, full time, childcare. If we are going to help parents off welfare and into work, as the Government says it wants to do, then childcare is vital.
“Our experience of running Centres in disadvantaged areas shows that there is significant demand for childcare places if they are offered in a flexible way that meets parents’ needs.
Anand Shukla, Acting Chief Executive of Daycare Trust, commented: “We were pleased to hear the Minster confirm to Daycare Trust’s conference the government’s commitment to early years services as a means to tackle social deprivation and improve children’s life chances. Daycare Trust looks forward to working with the government to ensure that the best interests of parents and children are at the heart of these changes.
"However, we believe there are some key issues that will need to be addressed in relation to the new freedoms for Sure Start Children’s Centres. We are concerned about the ability of parents in deprived areas to access childcare places, particularly free 15 hours for three and four year olds, if there is no longer a requirement for Children’s Centres to provide these places.
We also know that the quality of childcare in Sure Start Children’s Centres is high and believe that any changes should not jeopardise this high quality.”